Feature

Representing Homeless Veterans and Youths

Paul Freese, Casey Trupin, and Jeff Yungman

Our country is bracing for the en masse return of hundreds of thousands of men and women from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Early assessments of those returning indicate an alarming trend—the prevalence and severity of post-traumatic distress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury is far more profound than we have seen in connection with any other modern war, including Vietnam. Experts on homelessness recently concluded that the number of Vietnam-era veterans who ended up homeless—largely because of untreated PTSD and addiction relating to self-medication—now exceeds the number of soldiers killed in that conflict. Soldiers returning from the Vietnam War, whose war-related ailments went improperly assessed or treated, became homeless within nine to 12 years. In sharp contrast, veterans of the wars in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) are becoming homeless within nine to 12 months—highlighting how critical it is to prevent such tragic outcomes for this next generation of returning veterans.

 

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